Shelton wins second Colorado state wrestling title — Cowboys finish 3rd in team standings

Shelton dominated the 2A 170-pound bracket, including a pin against Jon Hickman of Lyons in the championship match.

Meeker had three wrestlers participate in the Parade of Champions, where finalists in all weight classifications walk from the four corners of the Pepsi Center onto their respective mats before being introduced to thousands of wrestling fans. Meeker’s Tristin Pelloni, Devon Pontine and T.J. Shelton were accompanied by their coaches, Willy Theos, J.C. Watt and Barney LeBlanc.
Meeker had three wrestlers participate in the Parade of Champions, where finalists in all weight classifications walk from the four corners of the Pepsi Center onto their respective mats before being introduced to thousands of wrestling fans. Meeker’s Tristin Pelloni, Devon Pontine and T.J. Shelton were accompanied by their coaches, Willy Theos, J.C. Watt and Barney LeBlanc.
MEEKER | “T.J. just dominated his opponents,” Meeker head wrestling coach J.C. Watt said of sophomore T.J. Shelton, who won his second individual title at the 2014 Colorado State Wrestling Championships over the weekend in Denver.
Meeker’s Tristin Pelloni (113) and Devon Pontine (160) made it to the championship match in their respective weights, finishing as state runners-up.
The Cowboys qualified 10 wrestlers for the “Big Show,” which featured all weight classes on the floor of the Pepsi Center for three days, and they entered the tournament as the No. 2 ranked 2A team by On the Mat Rankings. However, the team finished third after winning only one of seven matches on the final day of the tournament.
Paonia won its third straight team title with 180 points and Baca County came in second with 112.5, compared to Meeker’s 98.5 points.
“I was proud of them for getting third; they are a great group of kids,” Coach Watt said.
Watt was also proud of how his champion handled winning his second title, humbly and without celebration.
“He acted like he had been there before,” Watt, who also won two individual state titles for the Cowboys, said with a smile.
Shelton is the only wrestler from Meeker to ever win a state title as a freshman, and, with his most recent championship, he takes another step toward his goal of becoming Meeker’s first four-time state wrestling champion.
“T.J. is just wrestling at a different level; he seems to rise to the occasion in pressure situations,” Watt said. “He keeps his goal of becoming a four-time state champion alive.”
Shelton was the state tournament’s No. 1 seed in the 2A 170-bracket and pinned his first opponent (Yuma’s Justin Leth) in the second period, then defeated Brandon Anderson 16-0 to advance to the semifinals, where he pinned Kolby Starks of Norwood in 1:07.
Shelton’s championship match would be against Jon Hickman, also a sophomore from Lyons, who entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed with a record of 34-4. Shelton confidently shot in on a double leg and lifted Hickman up on his shoulders before bringing him to the mat and scoring back points to take an early 5-0 lead. Shelton put Hickman on his back three times and did not let him up the third time, until the referee signaled a pin, 4:41 into the match.
Coach Watt said Tristin Pelloni (113) and Devon Pontine (160) had “great tournaments” as they advanced to the championship match before losing to familiar opponents.
Pelloni pinned in the first round then defeated Jeremy Fraser of Rocky Ford 6-4 to advance to the semifinals, where he would wrestle Marcelino Baptista of Merino, the tournament’s No. 2 seed. Pelloni beat Baptista 6-4, with a takedown in the first overtime period to earn the right to walk in the Parade of Champions.
“Tristin wrestled the same kid on the same mat last year at state and lost in overtime; this year, Tristin beat the same kid on the same mat in overtime,” Coach Watt said of Pelloni’s semifinal match. “It was one of the most exciting matches for us in the semifinals. Tristin wrestled a great tournament. He beat the third and fourth placers and wrestled well.”
Pelloni lost 4-1 in the championship match to Talon Harris of Norwood, the same wrestler to beat him in the regional championship the week before. Pelloni finished fifth in last year’s state tournament.
Pontine was also wrestling in his second state tournament after qualifying as a freshman, but he didn’t place. Pontine opened his second state tournament with a pin, then beat the tournament’s No. 1 seed in the 2A 160-pound bracket, junior Bryce McCracken of Crowley County 8-3, to advance to the semifinals, where he defeated the tournament’s No. 3 seed, Jonas Cure, a senior from Wray 11-5.
The semifinal win would match Pontine up with Paonia’s Zach Milner for a fourth time this season in the championship match, where Milner would win for a fourth time, 3-2 in triple overtime.
“Devon wrestled his quarter and semifinal matches as good as I’ve ever seen Devon wrestle,” Watt said.
Watt said Devon’s matches with Milner have always been close, and this one was even closer.
“Devon wrestled him well again, he was just not able to come out on top,” Watt said.
Although three other Cowboys (Sheridan Harvey, J.C. Henderson and Tyler Ilgen) each won their first match, all three lost in the quarterfinals, then won another match in their first round in the consolation bracket, but all would be eliminated, one match away from the medal round.
Henderson qualified for the state tournament all four years and placed fifth last year for the Cowboys but could not get on the podium this year.
“J.C. was ill at the beginning of the week and it showed some effects in the tournament as he was not 100 percent, physically,” Watt said. “J.C. is a great kid and nobody over the last four years has worked any harder that him; he’ll be fine.”
Watt also complimented Henderson’s classmates, Calvin Shepherd (120), Aaron Cochran (132) and Willis Begaye (152), for their sacrifices and contributions to the team.
“Calvin started when he was a sophomore, so it was amazing to get him over there to the state tournament and have him win a match,” Coach Watt said.
Cochran won two matches but needed one more win to medal.
“Aaron I thought wrestled well and was only a match away from placing,” Watt said. “He showed a lot of hustle and determination and he should be proud of the way he wrestled.
“Willis hurt his knee and it affected the way he wrestled, but he pushed through the pain and wrestled the best he could,” Watt said.
Freshmen Harvey and Ilgen each scored team points with two wins each while losing one match before the medal rounds.
“Sheridan got beat by a couple of tough kids, but he won two matches and the experience will help him next year, knowing what to expect,” Watt said. “Tyler won two matches, which was very impressive for a freshman heavyweight.”
Coach Watt is also impressed with Kylloe Goedert’s dedication.
“Kylloe won a match and is he is a very dedicated kid,” Watt said. “This was Kylloe’s second year to qualify and next year, he should be on the podium.”
Watt was also impressed with the community support and fans who followed the team all season and attended the state wrestling tournament, and he was thankful to his assistant coaches.
“It was encouraging to see the community support and nice to see a bunch of our high school kids going over to watch their classmates in the state tournament,” Coach Watt said of the large contingency of Meeker fans in attendance.
“I also want to thank coach Barney (LeBlanc), coach Carl (Padilla) and coach Willy (Theos),” he said. “They have been a lot of help to me this year, and, hopefully, we’ll improve as a coaching staff and get some summer wrestling in and get ready for next year.”